Many companies develop annual marketing plans. This is a logical approach – it aligns with the fiscal calendar of most firms and it matches the natural pace of the year.
Sometimes, however, it is necessary to revise the plan mid-stream. This is one of those times.
Things have changed dramatically for companies around the world. The economy is faltering and people are confined to their homes. Hospitals are starting to scramble, and there is every reason to believe things will get worse before they get better.
This means that whatever you had for a marketing plan two weeks ago is no longer going to work. In terms of strategy, things will certainly need to shift. For some firms it may be more difficult to get customer trial, while other companies might see an opportunity to accelerate customer acquisition. A plan to push multiples in-store will no longer work. Messaging may need to change. A compelling pitch two weeks ago may no longer resonate.
Tactics need a fresh look, too. If you were counting on events to build your brand this year well, they aren’t happening. Out-of-home advertising isn’t going to work very well. Digital advertising is looking better and better. Social media efforts are likely to provide upside.
Perhaps most important, budgets will be changing. Marketing ultimately needs to connect to the financials. Spending levels may need to adjust as revenues change. Each program needs to be viewed with a different lens.
There are four critical things to remember when creating the new plan.
First, you have to move quickly. The situation has changed radically in a matter of days. Now is the time to cut programs that will no longer work. Conserve cash. Invest in tactics that might deliver results in this new environment.
Second, remember to start with the objectives. As I lay out in my book Breakthrough Marketing Plans, plans should focus on objectives, strategic initiatives and tactics. The first step is the objectives. Is the focus now driving results? Caring for the community?
Third, it is best to plan for the worst. The lock-down may be over in a few weeks, but this seems unlikely. What needs to happen if this all continues until June? How about until the end of the year? Some people are talking about 18 months of restrictions. What then?
Finally, be flexible. The only certainty right now is the lack of certainty. So keep things flexible and avoid big commitments. Make small steps and check the results. Be ready for things to get better or worse over time.
It is a challenging time to be a marketing leader but doing nothing isn’t an option. Onward.